Forty-One Jane Doe’s
Carrie Olivia Adams
This book is accompanied by a DVD of movies created by the author.
Immersed in the continuum between death and desire, the detective of these poems is ever at the mercy of meteorological phenomena and outside stimuli. As she searches and reaches toward an elevated understanding (employing outdated science experiments with strings, pigeons, and tin cans, and enlisting the help of the Scientist, the Astronomer, and the Aviator along the way), she stumbles upon more questions than answers. “I don’t know why this one or that one. But I know desire.” A woman knows her body . . . until it is exploded into a multitude of Janes. A DVD of video poems accompanies the book, speaking to these multitudes. The reader is initiated into the dilemma of the Janes, who staunchly proclaim, “Reader, you and I have been lashed / by the weather.”
“Written in tandem with her short films, Carrie Olivia Adams’ Forty-One Jane Doe’s investigates the nature of desire and remorse through the prism of anonymity. Tuned with paradoxical introspection (‘Self or selfless, / I am in the way’), Adams’ lyrical sequences culminate in a savage title poem that declares, ‘It is the sin in me that says I.’ This bracing second collection weighs the parts of us that remain unknown, even to our confidants.” —James Shea
“I am in love with how Carrie Olivia Adams captures the visible and the invisible, how she wonders about pinpricks and stars, possibility and fate, how she demonstrates that seasons are incidents, snowflakes are clues. Her world is one of startling moments and minutiae, the mystery of the sublime and the mystery of the everyday. Her poetry reminds us to always pay attention, to always be in awe.” —Jenny Boully
from "Intermission with the Scientist"
The heart rises upwards
to a point
so that as it strikes
against the breast
the pulse is felt externally.
I’ve grown tired of my heart—
it knows not its place.
My heart being grasped
in the hand, is felt
to become harder
during its action.
Shhh. Quiet little heart.
The heart, my heart,
when it moves,
becomes of a paler color,
it is red.
In the pause
the heart is soft,
as it were
Copyright © 2013 by Carrie Olivia Adams
"You read a lot of books of poetry when you’re a poet yourself. Some will move you and some will not. But I love the ones where you can’t read a page without wanting to write some poetry of your own because this writer inspires you that much. Carrie Olivia Adams is just such a writer. In the next section of the book, 'Pandora’s Star Box,' Ms. Adams writes,
Yet, I am ashamed to spend time worrying about the stars burning themselves into darkness. Perhaps it is because everything else has already fallen. I have had a hand in it. No amount of dipping into lakes and seas has drowned that.
In the poem 'Voice Made Small,' Ms. Adams writes, 'Your voice becomes water again.' This is a fantastic albeit too short poem, for the simple reason that you want to read more . . . . Forty-One Jane Doe’s is the complete package." —Chris Mansel in Galatea Resurrects
My days are spent as a champion of books—books that are not my own, books often on subjects completely new to me, books that I know have an audience if I can do the work to find it. My nights are spent as a constructive reader of poetry—carefully eying pages of poems that are not my own, offering ideas as slight as a comma and as harsh as a deletion. I am a publicist; I am an editor; and somewhere in there (the shy one) I am a poet. I send the poems quietly out into the world to see what the world and the poems can make of each other.
I live in a 100-some year old cottage in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago. The house is at home amid the sounds of Eastern Orthodox church bells, the early morning scent of rye bread baking, and the shouts of the children that move seamlessly between Eastern European dialects and cursing in English as they play in the alley. The house creaks, is impossibly drafty, and is full of a history I wish I had the language to acquire. What does it know about this city in flux over the last century? It’s older than Wrigley Field and the Cub’s last world series. It’s older than Prohibition and the gangsters that made the city famous.
In my living room often sit poets, who come together to hear poems from each other’s new books and to nibble on homemade biscuits and drink beer. I enjoying bringing them together, and I enjoy keeping poetry a voice in the room and filling as many spaces as I can with its conversation. I’m old fashioned. I can my home grown vegetables in mason jars, believe in handwritten thank you notes, and cherish the book—the ones signed by friends I’ve hosted for readings, and by authors I’ve watched bring their work from draft to fruition, and those by strangers from long ago whom I engage in imaginary dialogues.
As you read this, there is likely a book or a book-becoming-a-book in my hands, and I am hoping that it finds its way to a sympathetic reader.
Forty-One Jane Doe’s is named for a drink at the Violet Hour, my favorite cocktail bar in all the world, not just my world in Chicago. I don’t go there enough, but it’s my preferred motivation. I tell myself that I’ll sit there quietly at the bar, where the bartenders (yes, mixologists) are technicians and artists of the drink, and I will allow myself a delicious cocktail (or two), but then I must walk or bike home and sit in my little office and work on a poem (or two). And so, one little motivation at a time, the poems came to be. One night at the bar, Michael Rubel told me the story behind the naming of the Forty-One Jane Doe’s, though this was long after I named the manuscript for it. It’s a secret I can’t tell, but it proved an appropriate history for the anonymous and mythical women whose stories are this book.
I live in the city, which is perfect for a voyeur. And it is perfect for someone who enjoys providing strangers with their own narratives, who enjoys imagining complicated histories for people I pass on the street or sit next to on the bus. Here you will find Pandora, a detective, a brief brush with an aviatrix, and those women that are known only by the color of their dresses as they cross the city. They are each on the quest for their own mysteries, their own encounters with gravity and grace. They ask questions they aren’t supposed to ask. While I don’t write true narrative poems, I think my impulse towards being a storyteller still finds its way below the surface, using the poem sequence as a block to build with.
I knew when I started this manuscript (and I do tend to think in terms of the book, rather than in terms of the poem or even the sequence) that I wanted to make films. This was many years ago before the poem-film had become as prominent as it is now. Then, I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever want or care to see a film related to a poem. But film was a way of thinking for me. It was a way of visualizing when my imagination could not. “Pandora’s Star Box” was the first sequence I wrote for the book. It began with me shooting the film first on a wandering drive that my husband Taylor and I took through the Scottish Highlands and Inner Hebrides. The landscape begged to be captured, and I knew it was something I could never articulate—this was a case that demanded showing versus telling. The poem sequence came later, as I was editing the film and beginning to recollect my experience of the landscape. The film and the poems were finished together; by then they were inseparable in my mind, and I could not conceive of one without the other.
The other two films were made similarly and organically, with sometimes the word coming before the image and the image coming before the word. But I wouldn’t say that I ever sought out to film an image I had written or to directly write an image I had captured. The two mediums have very much their own form of communication, and I didn’t want to interfere with what they did best, but I wanted to supplement or enhance and perhaps make a third thing completely its own.
That said, I think this book lives without the films. There are more poems than films and more characters and women than those films contain and more than can be contained by those films. We’ve all known at least one Jane Doe, she is mythical herself, she is a shape-shifting symbol, one we fill at will. I think you will recognize her here and many others you may have known or wished to know or may know soon.